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BryanZ

A Winter Sous Vide Odyssey

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I've decided to start my own sous vide topic since I didn't want to hijack the "sous vide recipes" thread. If any moderator deems that this should be moved into something else, please feel free to do so. I think that my trials may prove valuable to others interested in sous vide cooking.

Anyway, I'm home from colllege on winter break and am ready to tackle sous vide cooking. After reading through most of the eG threads on sous vide cooking I decided to purchase the requisite equipment a home cook might procure through eBay, QVC, or any other mixed-merchandise retailer. I hope to learn during my experiments and hope others chime in with advice, encouragement, suggestions, etc. I'm willing to try pretty much anything.

The beginning of the madness can be seen here. In this post you'll find my equipment and a thread filled with a wealth of information on sous vide cooking.

Tonight I tackled a few types of seafood at 46C with mixed success:

Before:

Scallops

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"U6-8" aka really huge shrimp

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Wild Alaskan King Salmon

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Eggs poaching at around 150F per Wylie from wd-50

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I poached the seafood for about 45 minutes per nathanm's amazing charts in the sous vide recipes thread. I didn't really plate anything prettily since this was to be a pretty methodical tasting of the sous vide results.

After:

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I found that the shrimp didn't quite turn all pink so I had to bust out the heat gun to finish most of them off. I also very quickly sauteed a couple of them over really high heat to bring a little bit of crispiness to the outer layer. I found that this worked quite well and yielded a very firm, very concentrated shrimp flavor with a pleasing but subtle texture difference.

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The scallops were my personal favorite. I quickly chilled them after the sous vide process then sauteed them very quickly (as per www.ideasinfood.com a fantastic food blog). This yielded a great, firm, custardy interior, but I think I should've cranked the heat higher in the searing process, as I would've liked more browning. I guess I was a little anxious and wanted to start eating.

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As others have notes, this salmon was very, very interesting. As you can tell, the cooked version doesn't look that different than the uncooked version. Still, it flaked very, umm, seductively. I felt the pepper I added somewhat overwhelmed the fish and it needed some soy sauce to round out the flavors.

In general, the sous vide seafood turned out pretty well. I very much enjoyed the results, though my tasters, while loving the pure flavors, were ambivalent toward the textures that the process provided. For now, I'm blaming their subpar, uneducated palates, but I suppose I probably should consider catering to the tastes of others :raz:

I was thinking that a really cool idea might be pre-slicing the salmon and scallops into nigiri zushi-style pieces and then cooking them sous vide in that form. The seafood on beds of vinegared rice might be more accesible to diners unaccustomed to slicing into a piece of salmon or scallops sous vide. Dressing this neo-sushi with a little sea salt and yuzu would be very, very tasty, I think.

Finally, the eggs didn't quite turn out exactly how I wanted them to. They were still damn tasty but just not as gelatinous and runny as I had wanted. Next time I'll try poaching at 130F instead. Regardless, I used the eggs to top a kick ass salad of baby frisee, crisp bacon, and a dressing made from maple syrup, rendered bacon fat, and apple cider vinegar.

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Boneless short ribs are in the bath today at 55/56C in preparation for dinner on Christmas Eve. I froze some super concentrated beef jus/stock that I made from the bones of the ribs. One bag has thyme in it, one does not. We'll see how the herb penetrates through the meat in the 30+ hour cooking process.

gallery_28496_2247_185033.jpg

You can see the little pucks of frozen beef goodness.

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Interested in the eggs. How long did you cook them?

Were you looking for an exact replica of a standard poached egg? What exactly did they look like?

Finally, how difficult was it to crack and remove from shell. Could they stay in shell for any period or must be served right away?

Great photos.

Good luck in your experiments.


Edited by rich (log)

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Boneless short ribs are in the bath today at 55/56C in preparation for dinner on Christmas Eve.  I froze some super concentrated beef jus/stock that I made from the bones of the ribs.  One bag has thyme in it, one does not.  We'll see how the herb penetrates through the meat in the 30+ hour cooking process.

gallery_28496_2247_185033.jpg

You can see the little pucks of frozen beef goodness.

The short ribs need to be seared for color and seasoned before being put in the pouch.

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Bryan,

Try putting some olive oil in the pouch with the seasoned salmon. With the scallops, put some butter in the pouch with them.

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Of course, I'm seasoning everything before it's going in the pouch. I decided to wait to sear the short ribs until after. I've given this some thought, as it seems that that the browning reaction might add to the flavor of the ribs during the cooking process. nathanm, the sous vide sage of sorts, does not do this pre searing, however, so I decided not to. When I do more red meat I will sear beforehand and see if it makes any difference. Naturally, I plan to sear when theyre done.

Try putting some olive oil in the pouch with the seasoned salmon. With the scallops, put some butter in the pouch with them.

I actually did put some olive oil in the pouch with salmom. I just think I over peppered the damn thing. Still it was tasty. My Foodsaver also sucks out ANYTHING moist very quickly. I didn't expect this, so I'll be freezing cubes of infused olive oil, stocks, basic reduction sauces, etc.

Interested in the eggs. How long did you cook them?

Were you looking for an exact replica of a standard poached egg? What exactly did they look like?

Finally, how difficult was it to crack and remove from shell. Could they stay in shell for any period or must be served right away?

I poached them for about 40 minutes but they weren't in the water bath so my temperature control wasn't as precise. They jumped to like 152F a couple times so that might've been what set the centers. This dish was inspired by a poached egg dish I had at wd-50 that was completely mindblowing. The egg was silkenly custardy and really captured the quintessential "eggyness" (as sous vide tends to do).

I will try the eggs again today, at around 135F, the same temp that my short ribs are in at. Peeling them was very tricky and they weren't exactly pretty but I'm working on it. Perhaps I should shock them in cold water after the cooking???


Edited by BryanZ (log)

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I decided to wait to sear the short ribs until after.  I've given this some thought, as it seems that that the browning reaction might add to the flavor of the ribs during the cooking process.  nathanm, the sous vide sage of sorts, does not do this pre searing, however, so I decided not to.  When I do more red meat I will sear beforehand and see if it makes any difference.  Naturally, I plan to sear when theyre done.

I've tried it both ways. The argument in favor of searing first is that you infuse the meat with the various products of searing (mallaird reaction, carmelization). Some chefs swear by this - I'm told that Thomas Keller of French Laundry and Per Se does pre-searing on their sous vide meats.

However, it is unclear to me how important that flavor transfer is. I've compared it before and after and I don't think that the flavor transfer is very large. Plus, if you want this effect you can also achieve it to an even higher degree by including some brown stock or demi-glace in the bag. Or, put some crispy bits of meat in the bag (such as trimmings) that are first well browned.

The argument in favor of searing after sous vide cooking is that you can make a hot crisp crust. Most of the time that is what I want, so I sear second. This gives you the appearance and texture of a grilled / sauteed / roasted meat rather than the appearance of browned but soggy meat with no crust (i.e. as you would have in a stew, osso bucco etc.). So that is the trade off - hot crisp brown versus soggy brown.

I suppose that you could sear twice - one before, and once after, but that is both more work and could over-sear the exterior.

Part of the trade off comes in how done the meat is going to be - if you are cooking to rare or medium rare, then the crisp crust is generally pretty desirable (my preference anyway). If you are cooking at higher temp (say, above 60C) then the brown soggy look might be OK.

Then again, many traditional dishes involve crisping even after long high temperature cooking - i.e. crisping the skin on duck confit, or on Mexican carnitas (essentially a pork shoulder confit).

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So the short ribs were in the bath at 56-57C for about 30 hours. I had done two batches, one with thyme, one without. I found that results were generally good, but I need to season more aggressively with salt and pepper--something I usually do but have been scared of in sous vide cooking.

Anyway, my bag with thyme in it slightly inflated. I'm not sure how, perhaps the seal wasn't as good, but during the last 6 hours of the cooking it started to float to the surface. I weighted it down and hoped for the best.

After taking both bags out, I found that the thyme bag had the slightly sour/metallic odor/taste that others have mentioned. This could be the thyme, the air in the bag, or something else entirely, but it was slightly disconcerting. I ended up eating both batches (though the thyme ones were clearly inferior), so if I don't post for the next couple days, know that I'm in the hospital with advanced food poisioning.

The non-thyme bag was very tasty. The same texture of strip/sirloin steak that others have noted. I found the short ribs were somewhat dry though and more liquid leached from the meat into the bag than I had initially imagined. Regardless, they were quite good, not chewy like a seared short rib, nor pull apart tender like a braised one--they were also pleasantly pink in the middle. I just need more of a sauce to top them with or to put on the side.

The finished product with parsnips and potatoes, zuchinni, and wild mushrooms

gallery_28496_2247_547031.jpg

Next up is another try with the eggs, then probably a rack of lamb or a duck breast, then a butter poached lobster tail to follow.

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So I gather on the non-inflated bag, you didn't notice the metalic taste? Hmmm. Very early on, I had an issue with bag bloat, but haven't had that since I got my chamber vacuum, yet, I've noticed the metalic taste on all longer cooks. Now, I haven't done anything less than 36 hours for brisket and shortribs. I'm wondering if your bag bloat accellerated the off taste. I'll have to try a shorter cook for shortribs. I know Nathan does them in 24 hours...

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I have not noticed a metallic taste on any of my sous vide cooking - even up to 80 hours. I'm not sure what this is about...

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I have not noticed a metallic taste on any of my sous vide cooking - even up to 80 hours.  I'm not sure what this is about...

I really wonder what the difference is Nathan. I am also browning my meat after sous vide, so that's not it. Do you usually sauce your long cook meat products heavily that might hide the "taste"? Also, I'm usually doing just salt, pepper, garlic, and maybe some olive oil. Are you doing more or less?

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I usually do not sauce heavily - in fact I do lots of experiments with either no seasoning at all, or minimal (salt, and perhaps some oil).

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Hmmm. wonder if the difference could be the garlic powder. I don't remember a cook without it. At least it's worth a try.

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For me it could've come from the herb I added to the bag. It was almost a metallic/sour/medicinal-herbal taste. Or then again it could've been bacteria growing in the slightly inflated bag, oh well. You live you learn.

The egg is getting close to where I want it. The white is custardy in a way that's more gelatinous than a normally poached egg. The yolk is still firming up a little more than I'd like but it's not really set--I'd say it's like a yogurt consistency. And the egg flavor is very concentrated, much more so than an egg poached in water. I will post a picture of it later this afternoon.

Merry Christmas everyone!

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Here's the egg I've been talking about.

gallery_28496_2247_218724.jpg

gallery_28496_2247_10585.jpg

The white is exactly how i want it, custardy, smooth, eggy. The yolk is still a bit runny but I would like it more so. I've got eggs going into the water bath left and right and I'm watching the temperature like a hawk. I'm still working on it though. So far I've eaten my "experiments" in sandwiches, salads, and by themselves. A little truffle salt and you're golden.

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For me it could've come from the herb I added to the bag.  It was almost a metallic/sour/medicinal-herbal taste.  Or then again it could've been bacteria growing in the slightly inflated bag, oh well.  You live you learn.

No common bacteria can grow above 125F. Unless you put seawater from an undersea volcanic vent int the bag, I think we can rule out bacteria as the cause.

In theory you could get some bacteria growing in the center of the meat if it takes a long time to reach 125F (say in a very thick piece) but that is extremely unlikely - the center of most muscle meats is sterile.

Try cooking without any seasoning but salt and see how that goes...

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No common bacteria can grow above 125F.  Unless you put seawater from an undersea volcanic vent int the bag, I think we can rule out bacteria as the cause. 

Yes, they can. Thermophilus bacteria are quite common. Good places to find them are at the center of compost heaps. The particular incubator I use to keep them alive is set at 60C.

The problem is that those guys are spore formers.

But, enough airing of my microbiologist unmentionables.

I would suggest that if you are going to use fresh herbs you should thoroughly wash them, or briefly blanch them just before use. Try that once and see if it reduces your bag bloat.

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I stand corrected. The rules on sous vide hygene are hereby amended. Never put any of the following in your sous vide bag: seawater from near deep sea vents, water from hot pools at Yellowstone, and absouletly no hot decomposing compost!

I don't think that will be too limiting :smile: .

Good hygene is a great idea for all cooking, especially sous vide. The first order of priority is to be as clean as you can about evertyhing. That certainly includes fresh herbs which are far more likely to harbor germs than the interior of the meat. Exterior of meat surfaces, particularly poultry are another area to watch.

This is somewhat off topic, but I have wondered why is isn't standard practice to dunk food in a disinfectant / antiseptic solution. A salt brine is one option - typically you do this for a long period of time to brine the meat, but even a very brief dunk would kill a lot of the potential pathogens. Another option would be ethyl alcohol - i.e. vodka.

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I've used Citricidal ( aka Grapefruit Seed extract) for washing chicken, seafood and produce from organic sources. When I was backpacking through India in the early 90's I washed my salad with it all the time. In some parts of the world they use black fertilizer (human sourced) on their crops. I did really well until I forgot once and picked up some Entamoeba Histolytica.

I'd imagine that spices could carry some evil bugs. These come from all over the world and are not steralized. They are grown with unknown surroundings and dried in the open air. Maybe it is a good idea steralize spices before they go low and slow. hmm.

BryanZ, Thanks for sharing your experiments and photo's.

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Entamoeba Histolytica.

It wouldn't really do a whole lot against E. histolytica. The oocytes E. histolytica produces that are the human-pathological form are fairly acid-resistant.

Part of the reason that we don't dunk our foods in that type of solution is that most of our food cooking methods disinfect (or sterilize, depending on the method) the surface of the food--and usually the interior is sterile.

Also, many pathogenic bacteria, and other flora, are pathogenic not because of themselves, but because of toxins they produce as they live on the food. What this means, is in small amounts, their presence doesn't really make any difference to us. In large amounts, they do.

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It wouldn't really do a whole lot against E. histolytica.  The oocytes E. histolytica produces that are the human-pathological form are fairly acid-resistant.

GSE isn't acidic... it's a mixture of quarternary ammonium chloride compounds that have a pretty substantial antimicrobial effect. If you're concerned about surface contamination, I'd say go for it. The already-secreted toxins, of course, pose a different problem.

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I stand corrected, but I still stand behind my statement that it's probably not effective against E. histolytica. The contact time doesn't seem to add up to the proper amount to be effective.

However, the simple mechanical action of washing is going to be most effective because, well, those oocytes are in gross filth. So, remove the filth, remove the pathogen.

Edit to further add: I don't think E. histolytica is going to be a horrid problem in sous vide cooking, though. It is not a free-living pathogen, so I'd be looking at other things. Bacillus strains, etc. I will check on E. histolytica's lifestyle and post back.


Edited by jsolomon (log)

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So, the question is, what is the best practice for dealing with pathogens? The main place to worry would be with food that is going to be served raw (sushi) or rare (i.e. outsied the FDA time-temperature relations for 5 or 6 D reductions in pathogen count).

Selecting food from a good, reputable source is clearly #1.

Washing in a conventional way, and paying attention to hygene generally is #2. In most cases the thing to care about washing isn't the food - it's your hands since the chef often touches dirty stuff (like produce) and then touches food.

The question stands as to whether #3 is rinsing in a disinfectant/antibiotic?

If so which one would you use?

An ideal antiseptic would be easy to remove, would leave no trace, and would thus be tasteless and safe. It would also have to be effective in killing pathogens with a fairly short contact time.

Ethyl alcohol would seem to be one choice. A 40% to 50% solution (high proof vodka) is the easiest to get. It has the advantage that it is common, and it evaporates pretty easily so allowing the food to dry should pretty much take care of eliminating it.

GSE is apparently another choice - I have not used it, so I don't know much about it.

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